According to The American Institute of Stress, there are over 50 common signs and symptoms of stress. From things as small as headaches and grinding of the teeth to things as large as frequent colds and heart palpitations. While stress is something we cannot really avoid, learning how to handle our stress is especially important to our overall health and well-being.
A new study done by Ladan Eshkevari, the assistant program director of the nurse anesthesia program at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, found that stimulating certain body points with acupuncture can alter stress hormones.
The body’s stress response is triggered by two main pathways, one is the HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) in which these areas of the brain are activated to release peptides and proteins such as CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone). They then launch the production of other hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine that rev up the anxiety meter. Once these are activated, the system causes the heart to beat faster and the senses to go on alert. It also diverts the body’s energy away from other operations, such as digestion, to prime and fuel the muscles into a state of readiness.
All of this is normal and necessary for protecting ourselves from potential threats. However, when stress becomes chronic and starts beating us down, it is no longer helpful and can become harmful. People will start to see long term symptoms such as memory impairment, depression, digestive problems, obesity, sleep problems, and heart disease.
However, in Eshkevari’s study, it was found that when the subjects were pre-treated with acupuncture there was no spike in stress-associated hormones after they were exposed to chronic stress. In the stressed subjects that received acupuncture, stress hormone levels were similar to those in the control subjects that were not under chronic stress, which suggests the ancient healing modality helps to normalize stress hormone levels.